Sunday, March 02, 2008

The light and dark of saints and sinners

Written by Roger G., Night Supervisor, 4th Floor

One night in February I learned, when I began my shift at 9:00 pm on one of the transitional floors at the Drop In, that one of my guys was drunk. We try to maintain it as a sober floor, so I tracked "Bill" down and confirmed the assessment of his inebriation. I told him he had to leave for the night. and he asked me if he could get something from his locker but I knew in his state that could be a long and noisy operation, so I said I would send it down to him later. I asked him to get one of the 1st floor staff to contact me on the radio once things had settled down there, which happened about 9:40. I learned later in the night that the request I heard by radio had been edited; what "Bill" actually said was "Could you ask Retard Roger to send my stuff down now?"

Coming to the 4th floor under the influence that night - breaking the contract he'd agreed to - was a Strike 3 for "Bill" and I could have closed his bed over it, sending him down to long line-ups and daily uncertainty about where he would be sleeping at night. His two earlier strikes, however, were for different issues; leaving a mess on his bed when he left one morning, for instance. I decided to give him another chance, but first I wanted him to do some homework around his drinking and the recovery process. I gave him this assignment, basically a goal-setting exercise, the next morning when he came up to access his locker before leaving for the day.

A couple of nights later "Bill" brought to me his completed homework, and we had a long talk. We talked about what situations and interpersonal conflicts are troublesome for him. We talked about art, for which he has discovered a talent and a passion for in recent years. Finally, with his permission I led him through a simple imagination exercise I learned a few years ago. Tools like this can begin to clear away some of the baggage we carry around that may have far more to do with the opinions and judgement of others, than who we ourselves are at the core. He appreciated that, and told me afterwards that it was beautiful imagery. We left the office, and I went off to do a head count of the clients on the floor. My co-worker Art told me later that after leaving the office, "Bill" approached him and said "I feel like I've just had a conversation with Gandhi!"

So now I'm both Retard Roger, and Gandhi. Cool. This is one of the most important truths I'd like to help uncover for the guys on my floor, that we are all a mixture of light and dark, saint and sinner, good and bad. If they see that in me and begin to see it more in themselves, then I have served them well. An awareness of our own wholeness can loosen the bonds by which we are held by shame in smallness and isolation, increasing our capacity for acceptance of ourselves, and for honesty with ourselves and others.

"Bill" has been spending a lot of time drawing since then. He also told me last week that his favorite way to fall asleep lately has been to spend a few minutes with the images we walked through that night. He spent another night drunk on the first floor last week, though I didn't have to send him off the 4th floor in the evening. Maybe he's taking a step back, after the steps forward he's taken in the past month. That seems appropriate. Our journey through life is far more like spinning across a dance floor than along a railroad track; two steps forward and one step back works just fine.

Written by Roger G., Night Supervisor, 4th Floor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article! I really enjoy reading the postings on this blog. It gives me insight into the world of the homeless and in turn helps give me direction in ways I can help. Keep up the good work!